It looks like Harley-Davidson has built the Anti-Harley. Typical Harley motorcycles are air-cooled, 45-degree pushrod twins. They tend to be priced a bit higher than comparable models, but also have a higher level of finish and detail. They’re normally torquey, with quick power delivery that tapers off through the mid-and top-end, and they usually have well-sorted suspension (that needs more travel). None of these things are true about the Street 750.
It’s been years since H-D made a bike to a price point, and it shows. The Iron 883 is a well-finished bike, and the SuperLow is a very nice small person’s bike, but both are based on a bike for which the R&D budget was mostly spent 30 years ago. The Street that’s being sold in America is built in Kansas City, but I can say (with near-certainty), that the switchgear and other generic components on the bike are the same worldwide.
In short: they’re bad. Our test bike’s handlebars came set up at a wacky angle (with switch housing pointed at the sky), which drew attention to the randomly-sized hardware and plastic, immovable switch housings. Seriously, there are Allen bolts (clamp), two sizes of hex bolt (in both metric and American sizes), and Philips head screws (switch housings). Non-rotatable switch housings are never welcome on a custom motorcycle, while wide-blade levers are curiously absent.
OK, so the mirrors were definitely not designed for this bike (too tall and narrow), and there’s a clunky locking gas cap. The horn also looks (and sounds) like an afterthought, but while there’s giant, unsightly hardware in some very conspicuous places (front axle pinch bolts, swingarm pivot), the fundamentals are strong. We know that sounds counterintuitive, but rather than really try to do-up the window dressing, Harley chose to make the base as solid as possible. Despite all the corners cut in pursuit of a profit margin, the biggest corners on the Street still remain solid. For instance, unlike other “bargain” cruisers, it’s got real tires (Michelin Scorchers), rock solid (yet nimble) handling, and a sweet motor.
Strong on the Inside
The heart of any bike is the motor, and the Revolution X in the Street 750 is a worthy successor to the Revolution engine from the V-Rod. While the V-Rod has decent bottom-end torque, it really comes on in the midrange and just keeps pulling to redline. The Street starts mellow, hits hard in the middle, and tapers a bit on top. It’s a good combination for a bike that's aimed at the entry-level market; capable of thrilling an experienced rider, while giving a beginner confidence. Riding it, you definitely feel the family resemblance to the V-Rod, both in power delivery, as well as sound, which combines the high-pitched whine of the top end with a low bass from the exhaust pipe. Unusual for a cruiser in this price range is the six-speed transmission, too. Unusual for a Harley-Davidson, that transmission is also light shifting, but slightly vague, whereas most other H-D transmissions are heavy shifting, but positive. The ratios are also well-matched to the powerband; first seems slightly tall, and 6th will pull right past 80. The skinny clutch lever does, however, allow for two-finger operation, which is also unusual for this brand. While there is no tachometer, the midrange is so meaty and the motor revs so high, it’s not really needed.
Another pleasant surprise is how perfectly power delivery mates to handling characteristics. The Street is a very light-steering motorcycle, but it's also very stable. It turns into corners with ease. But it doesn't falter; bumpy freeway transition ramps were whipped though without letting off the gas. On curvy backroads, a soft suspension makes turning around corners a little bouncier, but the Street doesn't get tossed off its line at all. Considering the stated mission is as an “urban” bike, the Street's suspension makes sense (it soaks up freeway ripples and potholes like a champ), yet the suspension action seems underdamped. Beginners will probably want to short shift the Street, as that fat midrange hits hard when you pick up the throttle mid-corner -- and that can be unsettling. The good news is that the bottom end is good enough to pull that off. Helping matters are grippy, well-shaped tires that feel connected to the earth.
With the low-slung look and eye-tricking proportions, the new Street 750 not only looks bigger than it is, but is also more -forward weighted, which probably helps the overall nimble and connected feel. Rear pegs are on the high side, but only by Harley’s standards. The seat is really, soft, however, and larger riders will sink through the padding, stuck in an uncomfortable position with knees too high. But, other than the seat, the ergonomics seem to fit a wide range of riders from the very small to about 6 ft.1 inch. While the upright riding position might turn off some, it's actually a perfect complement to both the mission and handling of the bike, and very confidence inspiring to boot.
There are some nice design touches as well. The radiator hoses are tucked away very smartly on the left side, the spark plugs exit the coil between the cylinders in an eye-pleasing manner, and the rear brake master cylinder is angled to match the exhaust. The rear brake pedal keeps the rider’s heel off of the pipe, with a rounded guard at its base. The designers only got hamstrung on the other details by budget constraints.
Skipping motorcycle nanny systems is something that Harley-Davidson is known for, so you'll see no clutch or kickstand interlocks here, but there's also nothing to keep the engine from cranking (itself to death) when the kill switch is in the no-run position. The kickstand isn’t the usual auto-retracting Harley style, either. And both those things make the Street not so beginner-friendly.
Harley knew it needed to diversify the lineup with a bike that appeals to value-minded urban youth. The failed Buell experiment didn't really target the same group, and so this is the Motor Company's first true foray into smaller (bike) and younger (demographic). Sportsters have made some inroads, but as a big, heavy and air-cooled bike, it's still a poor choice for many.
Some may say hipsters are ruining the market, but demographically, they’re the ones saving it. Not that this is a hipster machine; a hipster will sooner glom on to the 50-years-old cool vibe of a Sportster, rather than a new, rough-around-the-edges liquid-cooled (somewhat) metric. No, this bike is strictly for those that don’t actually care about authenticity or heritage, but still want something American (whatever that means). It's also for those that don't care what the haters think, just like other metric riders have thought for years. In fact, if it’s perceived as “alternative” and “uncool,” that might just add some juice to its buzz.
The one big thing it has in common with other Harley-Davidsons is that the Street is a great base to customize from. The cheap and unrefined stuff doesn't really matter if you’re customizing. Better switchgear is cheap, brakes are easy to adapt (the front on this bike is just adequate, while the rear brake is borderline useless), and the engine, transmission, and frame are all solid, making good starting points for something cooler. While customizers frequently have a harder time customizing metric bikes due to hidden parts and tight packaging, this bike can still be stripped to the essentials, and the only thing you need to deal with is the radiator. Bring it on!